With the presidential elections just around the corner and the delegates really thumping the campaign trail now, it's a good time to take a hard look at each of the primary candidates and see how they stand on issues that matter to you, your business and to your trucking customers.
The closest either of the candidates has come to trucking or its associated industries was when an out-of-control dump truck nearly lost its load on George W. Bush Jr. last year. Nevertheless, whoever is elected president can have a profound effect on both the trucking and tire industries.
Probably the area of most concern right now is fuel. Fuel prices are at all-time highs and are predicted to go higher this winter. They are forcing owner-operators and smaller fleets out of business, which is definitely a threat to the commercial tire dealer customer base.
Republican position: Mr. Bush consistently has attacked the current administration's energy policy. The Republican platform states: "By any reasonable standard, the Department of Energy has utterly failed in its mission to safeguard America's energy security."
The Republicans note that gas prices have skyrocketed and oil imports are at all-time highs, while domestic oil production has fallen 17 percent over the last eight years.
Although the U.S. depends on oil and natural gas for 65 percent of its energy supply, vast areas of the continental U.S. have been put off limits to energy leasing. "A focus on renewable energy alone will not decrease America's reliance on foreign oil," the party has stated.
The Republicans feel that high fuel prices have hit the trucking industry hard, and "transportation policy remains inseparable from energy policy."
Would consider working to suspend the 4.3-cent-per-gallon federal fuel tax passed in 1993;
Attacks Mr. Gore's focus on renewable energy, which he says represents at most 4 percent of the total energy consumption in the U.S.;
Would work with OPEC to increase production;
Would enact a National Energy Security Act to increase domestic supplies of coal, oil and natural gas;
Would promote development of oil and gas reserves on federally owned land;
Would provide tax incentives for energy production and expand tax credits for renewable energy sources.
Democratic position: The Democrats point out that both George Bush and Dick Cheney come from "big oil." The Democratic platform looks at things differently. The Democrats want to develop alternative power, fuel and transportation sources in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
They want to promote the "21st Century Truck Initiative," which would develop more fuel-efficient trucks and thus "save businesses, truckers and taxpayers billions of dollars a year in reduced fuel costs—while cleaning the air and helping to combat global warming." They pledge to protect the environment from oil and gas drilling.
Said, "I believe we can double the fuel economy of an 18-wheeler by 2010;"
Proposes tax credits of up to $15,000 for companies buying more fuel-efficient 18-wheelers.
The vast majority of commercial tire dealerships as well as trucking companies are small, often family-owned business. Both the Democrats and the Republicans talk about the importance of small businesses in their platforms.
Republican Position: The Republican platform would give small businesses "far better treatment from government than they have received," through lower tax rates, ending the estate tax (often called the "death tax") and cutting through red tape.
They would "end the harassment of small businesses by federal agencies," by, for instance, withdrawing OSHA's proposed ergonomics standard and halting "the IRS discrimination against independent contractors."
They also would immediately allow 100-percent deductibility of health insurance premiums and let small businesses band together across state lines to buy insurance through association health plans.
Democratic Position: This plank in the Democratic platform states that "strengthening small business is a vital component of economic innovation, job creation and supporting entrepreneurship" and that the Democrats are committed to "sustaining and adding to the growth of small businesses, including home-based businesses."
To do this, they would modernize the Small Business Administration. They tout OSHA's proposed ergonomics standards as an important workers' rights issue.
Both Al Gore and George Bush claim to be pro-environment. However, Al Gore generally is regarded as more environmentally friendly.
Has endorsed the Environmental Protection Agency's aggressive pursuit of tougher federal clean air requirements;
Has a plan of tax credits to encourage companies to buy cleaner-burning trucks; and
Has set a goal of deploying a basic, fully integrated Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) infrastructure nationwide within a decade.
Believes in returning significant authority for clean air to the states;
Would work with polluters and provide financial incentives to get voluntary reductions, as he did in Texas. (Environmentalists say that approach has stymied air quality improvements in the state. Last year, for the first time, Houston overtook Los Angeles for having the worst smog.);
Supports federal research and development on congestion reduction technologies, such as the ITS, and federal technical assistance to state and local governments on strategies for reducing traffic congestion.
With regard to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) both Republicans and Democrats are in favor of free trade but say that it should not come at the expense of the American worker.
Republican position: A Republican administration and Congress would be aggressive in developing U.S. leadership in a global economy. However, "free trade must be fair trade.... We must be at the table when trade agreements are negotiated, make the interests of American workers and farmers paramount and ensure that the drive to open new markets is successful."
Pledged to "work to extend benefits of NAFTA from northernmost Alaska to the tip of Cape Horn" during a ceremony opening a new trucks-only bridge across the Rio Grande earlier this year;
Accuses President Clinton of "closing the border to trucks because he just doesn't want to cooperate with the spirit of the law. Obviously, we want to make sure the trucks coming from Mexico are safe."
Democratic position: The Democratic platform insists that "all trade agreements contain provisions that will protect the environment and labor standards, as well as open markets in other countries."
It also demands the authority to enforce workers' rights, human rights and environmental protection in those agreements.
Asked the administration to again postpone the cross-border provisions of NAFTA at the beginning of this year. Many saw this as a political move to garner union support. (In September, the Teamsters union decided to endorse Al Gore, despite their dislike of his support of NAFTA and free trade in general.)